As I mentioned, conservative Mormons on Twitter base a substantial part of their identity on bullying transgender people under the pretense of standing up for truth and righteousness. Actually, Mormons throughout history have a pretty long track record of bullying marginalized groups and then acting like they're the real victims when they get called out on it. In this case, when they get called out on it, I've seen a variation of this response over and over again: "It isn't loving to affirm someone's delusions." And there's a lot to unpack in that little sentence or others like it.
First, of course, it's a gross oversimplification to dismiss the entire transgender phenomenon as "delusions." Perhaps some percentage of individuals with gender dysphoria really are just delusional. I'm no expert. But there are so many other factors at play. In order for Mormons' theology to work, they need the world to be divided into unambiguous males and unambiguous females, but it just isn't. It never has been. Many biological ambiguities and nuances exist. Even if everyone's body was entirely one or the other, the theology doesn't rule out the possibility of gender mismatches between bodies and the spirits that inhabit them. When this possibility is suggested, most Mormons will try to rule it out by saying "God doesn't make mistakes," but the actual reality of the countless things that can and do wrong with people's bodies would rather suggest that it's guaranteed to happen many times.
Second, it's very, very, obvious in context that conservative Mormons throw around the word "delusions" to mock and delegitimize transgender people, and not because they actually give a rat's ass about transgender people's (or anyone else's) mental health. Delusion is an accurate clinical term, but most people just use it as an insult, and this case is no exception. Given how irrational and/or demonstrably false many of the Mormons' own beliefs are, I could just as easily call them delusions and go around contradicting them as an act of "love," but I try to be a little nicer than that.
Third, you can't cure people of delusions just by telling them they're wrong. Duh. Of course, in thinking that "Nuh-uh" is somehow an adequate solution to gender dysphoria, they're only following in the footsteps of their church, which has nothing to offer transgender people in that regard. It doesn't help them, it just insists that they stay miserable in their own skins because God supposedly said so, according to some old men who have been on the wrong side of nearly every major social issue in American history. The more I think about this version of God, the more petty and small-minded and pathetic he seems.
Fourth, the entire premise of the sentence is debatable. Life is brutal and miserable and short. I don't want to believe anything that isn't true, but if someone else's belief in something that isn't true makes them happy and harms no one, I see nothing loving about trying to take that away from them. In the last years of my great-grandmother's life, she delusionally believed she was living in a motel instead of a nursing home, and nobody tried to correct her because why the hell would they? In an episode of the fantastic evangelical Christian radio show "Adventures in Odyssey" that I used to listen to every day, a mentally ill man had an imaginary dog that he loved very much. This one kid was determined to prove that the dog wasn't real, but the consensus of all the other characters was that he was being a jerk and needed to cut it out. Of course, these people might retort that transgender delusions do harm people, partly because of the lie that children in the US are getting irreversible sex reassignment surgeries and partly just because they feel like a man wearing a dress is an existential threat to their theology. There undoubtedly are people with gender dysphoria for whom full transition isn't a healthy option, but that's up to qualified medical professionals to decide on a case-by-case basis, not for nobodies on Twitter who still don't know that biological females with XY chromosomes exist.
Swing music was banned in Nazi Germany because it had been influenced by black people, but propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made an exception for Charlie and His Orchestra, a group that recorded propaganda parodies of popular swing tunes in English and broadcast them to the UK. I listened to some this week and found them hilarious, and then I tried to unpack why I found them hilarious and whether it makes me a bad person. First off, though they're occasionally racist - and no different from American music in that regard - they don't really promote Nazi ideology. They're meant to demoralize, not convert. So mostly they just make fun of Winston Churchill and FDR with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and gloat about how badly the war is going for the Allies. That alone, coming from the side that ultimately lost, is hilarious to me. And the German accents juxtaposed with the English lyrics and the very American genre kind of amuse me too. And once in a while they raise a legitimate point, because it's not like the Allies were perfect. In my favorite of these songs, they sing to the tune of "Bye Bye Blackbird:"
I never cared for you before,
Hong Kong, Burma, Singapore -
Bye, bye, Empire!
India I may lose too,
Then I only have London Zoo -
Bye, bye, Empire!
I mean, the UK wasn't torturing and murdering minorities, but colonialism was still pretty crappy. And come to think of it, eugenics was first proposed by British scientists and developed by American scientists. But anyway, this song is hilarious to me because it was prophetic. For once Charlie's gloating was justified. I don't know if I'm justified in putting these songs on a playlist, but I rationalized that I was. Diversity is a big priority for my playlists, and I'm especially intrigued by the perspectives of the "others," the "bad guys" from the western perspective, like Germans in the thirties and forties and Russians in pretty much every other decade. And I had some German songs from the thirties and forties and I made sure none of them were promoting Nazi ideology. And now these are actual Nazi songs, but I rationalized that they don't cross the line because, while I've so far declined to include the most overtly racist old songs, I feel it would be dishonest to only include old songs that measure up to current standards of equity and tolerance. If these songs were part of the forties (and aren't calling for the extermination of minorities) then they should be included in the forties. That's what I told myself. I may be wrong, but I'm usually biased toward whatever conclusion lets me have more music.
Just today I found another (and better) perspective from the forties, an EP by underrated black folk singer Josh White entitled "Southern Exposure: An Album of Jim Crow Blues." I found it interesting because, while black musicians have recording music prolifically for almost as long as music has been recorded, I haven't found many songs prior to, say, the nineties that acknowledge, let alone protest against their second-class status in the United States. Even when they sing about poor economic conditions or legal troubles, they leave race out of it. Obviously there are exceptions like Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" and Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam," but this is what I've found in general. I would imagine they didn't want to alienate white people from buying their records. So anyway, it surprised and delighted me to find a song from the forties that names Jim Crow, let alone a whole EP that criticizes Jim Crow. Josh White pulls no punches about racial discrimination in housing, employment, and the US military. This EP makes me so happy.
I recently watched the new Disney+ series The Muppets Mayhem, the first installment of the franchise to focus on The Muppet Show's house band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. They aren't among the more popular Muppets, but half the jokes in this show are about how every other musician alive has befriended, partied with, dated, and/or been influenced by them, and I did find these jokes are funny every time. (There are enough celebrity cameos for three seasons of The Muppet Show.) In order to keep them from being upstaged by Kermit or Fozzie, there are only three other recurring Muppet characters - all original to this show - and some little Muppet bunnies and a brief cameo appearance by two old characters in the finale. At times it feels weird that this Muppet band is navigating an almost entirely human world, but the fact that they do so and nobody comments on it is funny. The human characters are lovable and three of them have an absolutely riveting love triangle that resolves in the most satisfying possible way. There's also a fair amount of focus and commentary on Smartphones, social media, and digital stuff in general, which kind of makes me despise the modern age even while I recognize what a glorious time it is to be alive, and sometimes the characters use Gen Z slang that kind of rubs me the wrong way as a crotchety almost-thirty-year-old. But of course we don't want the Muppets to stay stuck in the seventies because that would be ridiculous too. The major downside of the show is that after seeing Floyd so often, I noticed how creepy it is that his eyes are hollow tubes.
Because I read about near-death experiences recently, of course the omniscient internet brought to my attention the most recent development in that field. Four people hooked up to life support were having their brains monitored for whatever reason, and after they were taken off life support, two of their brains registered a surge of activity in the part responsible for dreams. Scientists speculate that these people were having NDEs, although they had a history of epilepsy, and nobody's ever shown a correlation between epilepsy and NDEs. The headline I looked at claimed that scientists had observed the brain activity behind NDEs for the first time, as if that were an established fact, but of course it isn't. They don't know what they actually observed. In order to know that, or at least be fairly confident, they'd have to observe something similar in the brain of someone who subsequently came back to life and reported on it. Science may sooner or later explain NDEs away as a purely neurological phenomenon, but it hasn't yet and we mustn't be premature about it. Journalists often take the nuance out of science, either out of sincere ignorance or the need to produce clickbait.
My roommate has finally moved out. He moved upstairs, meaning that he wanted to stay in this complex but not with me. The feeling is mutual. I didn't like that he left lights on he wasn't using (though I trained him by example to not do it constantly), I didn't like that he walked around without a shirt on when the weather was warm, I didn't like that he spent two hours a day in the bathroom, and I especially didn't like that he spent at least an hour a day practicing what can only be called "singing" under the most generous interpretation at the top of his lungs. It sounds more like an air raid siren. I had a friend over once and he laughed in disbelief at how bad it was. I sent a recording to another friend whom my complaints had made curious, and she wrote back, "PUT IT OUT OF ITS MISERY. WTF." Early on, at a public gathering, my roommate put me on the spot and asked if his singing annoyed me. Trying to balance tact with honesty, I said, "Only when it's really loud" (which was always). So he continued to consistently do it at the top of his lungs. Now I feel bad that I've been festering in resentment instead of asking him to stop, though, because I warned my upstairs neighbor about it, and I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he hasn't been enjoying it either.
Recently the Temple City Sheriff's office invaded the wrong home without a warrant and illegally questioned and arrested two children who now, presumably, are traumatized for life but at least won't grow up to be bootlickers. I wrote some strong language in an online form somewhere and fully expected, based on previous interactions with law enforcement, that they would ignore me, but that the publicity would make them think twice (or at least once) about pulling such stunts in the future. I was quite surprised when someone got back to me earlier this week. Credit where it's due.
I've started wasting time on Twitter instead of reddit lately. I used to do essentially nothing on Twitter except share my blog posts, and I stayed at 38 followers for over six years. Now after a few weeks of interacting with people, I'm up to 53, so yay.
Twitter brings out the worst in people, including me, because it has almost no rules. Before Elon Musk took over, my account was suspended for wishing death on (checks notes) Vladimir Putin. And I still do and I'm not sorry. But now, I can say whatever the hell I want without fear of consequences. I've had some arguments. Even though I only follow ex-Mormons and liberal Mormons as far as Mormon stuff is concerned, I keep getting conservative Mormons in my feed, and they're pretty much the worst people in the world. Half their identity right now revolves around hating transgender people, and the other half is divided between hating apostates, hating liberals, hating scholars, hating gay people, and hating feminists. They're straight-up bullies more often than not, and because they think they're boldly standing up for truth and righteousness, they're quite incapable of attaining any self-awareness about how awful they are. Case in point:
I mean, wow. I used to have a hell of a persecution complex myself, but I don't think there was ever a point when I would have told someone "You are a demonic force and will be treated accordingly." It frightens me that people who think that way exist. Of course, guys like this think I'm a demonic force too. I try to be good. I don't set out to tear down Mormon beliefs every time I see them in my feed. I only get involved if they say something egregiously stupid and/or bigoted. And I try not to mock or insult them until they do it to me first, but that usually doesn't take very long. Personal attacks are usually their first and only response to critique of any kind. They really thought they were clever for pointing out that I had my pronouns in my bio and a Ukrainian flag next to my name. I had to block an account with the word "Christ" in its name that insisted Ukraine "isn't innocent" and basically deserves what it's getting, a claim that could be made with a little more accuracy (though it would still be victim-blaming) about the Mormons who moved into Missouri and boasted that the Lord would give them their neighbors' land. I added a Pride flag and a transgender flag to my Ukrainian flag just to bother these troglodytes, and then I added "If my flags and pronouns bother you, mission accomplished" to my bio to make sure they know that I'm bothering them on purpose, and now they don't bring that stuff up as much.
The leaders of the church don't appear to care that in a few years, people like this will be the only members they have left. Decent, intelligent, empathetic people are being alienated in droves. Of course, some of these jackasses also get alienated every time the church takes a position against bigotry or in favor of modern medicine - the other day one even confessed that he struggles with his faith and desire to attend church because a Primary teacher elsewhere on Twitter wore a rainbow pin - but overall, I think they're winning. Perhaps in fifty years, this church will make the Westboro Baptist Church look like a happy memory. Perhaps it will truly be The Church of Brigham Young, Ezra Taft Benson, and Donald J. Trump. (One of the guys I argued with had modeled his profile after Spencer W. Kimball, though. Kimball's a more nuanced figure in my book. If I meet him in the next life, I'll thank him for what he did to advance racial equality within the church, then kick him between the legs for the vile things he said about women and gay men.)
My sister Melanie asked me for advice on starting a blog like a year ago. It's a good thing she didn't ask for advice on making a popular blog, because I couldn't have helped her with that. But it looks like she now has a blog with two posts. It's called "Almost Canadian," an obvious reference to us growing up half an hour from the border of Quebec and watching CBC instead of PBS. If you enjoy my sarcasm, snark, anger, and scathing religious and political criticism, I don't think you'll get any of that from her. But she has a strong writing voice and a charming sense of humor. I think she's a better writer than I was at her age (23), even though she only just recently realized it's what she wants to do, but I'm not jealous or anything. Okay, maybe a little. I'm just going to focus on building up my relationship with her in case she gets rich before I do.
I read a few Psychology Today articles about near-death experiences yesterday. NDEs have increased dramatically since the mid-twentieth century as medical technology has advanced to be able to save people who are farther and farther gone. They confirm of one of two things: that our consciousnesses will survive death, or that spiritual experiences are a byproduct of our brains having evolved to screw with us in countless ways. Obviously one of these possibilities is comforting and the other is terrifying. I'm guessing NDEs were all but nonexistent for most of human history when people simply did not wake up after their hearts stopped, so I doubt they influenced religious beliefs. But are they evidence for religious beliefs or merely influenced by them? Many of their motifs are strikingly similar across cultures, but Hindus don't encounter Jesus and Christians don't encounter Hindu gods. So maybe a biological commonality of human brains is being filtered through cultural influences, or maybe the higher power that receives dead souls is manifesting itself in different ways depending on what people expect and recognize.
Many, maybe most neurologists and other scientists are skeptical. One hypothesis holds that NDEs are hallucinations caused by dying brains flooding themselves with the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine, but there is as yet little evidence that dying brains actually flood themselves with the psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine. I should think that would be an easy thing to check for, but I'm no expert. Another, in my opinion more convincing, argument against the reality of NDEs is that similar experiences can be triggered by non-life-threatening conditions like fever or anesthesia. I'm not sure how a believer would respond to that, but any honest believer in any spiritual phenomena must be compelled to acknowledge that they have a significant neurological component and consequently can be set off by things happening in the brain. Hippies have recognized this for a long time. Why God would make spiritual phenomena so unstable and unreliable if they're meant to be a guide to divine truth, I can't imagine.
One of the biggest counterarguments in favor of the reality of NDEs is the profound effect they tend to have on people. Most people find NDEs very peaceful and pleasant, sometimes so much so that coming back to life is a disappointment. They lose any fear of death they previously had, feel more purpose in life, see more beauty in everyday things, and become less materialistic and more altruistic. Standard hallucinations don't do that to people. I find this point very compelling, though there's still a chance it could just be a twisted cosmic joke, like how the Book of Mormon has a real and powerful spiritual impact on many people despite being a nineteenth-century fraud. A small percentage of people have unpleasant, lonely, or frightening NDEs, and while this would be difficult to test scientifically and I don't want to make insensitive assumptions, I'm dying to know if they're bad people who have reason to fear God's judgment. It would make sense for them to be a small percentage because God is supposed to be merciful and I believe few people are truly evil in their hearts.
Anyway, this is cool stuff, and though none of it is conclusive, it somewhat assuages my anxiety about death, at least until science marches on and ruins it for everyone.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.